Zimbabwe recount is fixed, says opposition
Zanu-PF accused of torture as Mugabe clings on
Zimbabwe's opposition alleged widespread irregularities as the partial recount begun yesterday of votes cast in the presidential and parliamentary elections held three weeks ago, including ballot boxes with seals broken before they were delivered for the count or with no seals at all.
The Movement for Democratic Change said some boxes had been stuffed with votes for President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF in an effort to overturn the opposition's capture of a parliamentary majority for the first time since independence 28 years ago.
'This is a discount of the people's will in the guise of a recount,' said the MDC's spokesman, Nelson Chamisa. 'We have found ballot boxes already open or with no seals. We believe other boxes they opened and forged new seals. This is not an isolated problem."
The recount, which state radio said could take three days, came as the opposition presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, said he fears for his life if he returns to Zimbabwe. Yesterday, Human Rights Watch accused Zanu-PF of establishing a network of torture camps in a campaign against Tsvangirai's supporters. The recounts are taking place in 23 constituencies, all but one lost by Zanu-PF to the MDC. Mugabe's party will regain control if the MDC's victories are reversed in nine or more seats.
If Mugabe retains power it would be important to him to also control parliament, in part because if he retires before the next election his successor as president for the remainder of the six-year term will be chosen by MPs.
The recount will also affect the outcome of the presidential race, which Tsvangirai claims to have won with a little more than 50 percent of the vote based on the MDC's own tally of polling station returns.
But if the official results do not deliver an outright victory to either Mugabe or Tsvangirai the law requires a run-off within three weeks.
Tsvangirai has vacillated over whether to participate in a second round, saying that a fair election is not possible amid surging violence in rural areas. The MDC leader, who has been touring southern Africa to drum up support, has also expressed fears for his own safety and said he will remain abroad for now.
'It is no use going back to Zimbabwe and becoming captive. Then you are not effective. What can you do?' he told a Canadian newspaper. 'Do you want a dead hero?'.
The campaign of violence, called Operation Makavhoterapapi ['Where did you put your cross?'] by Zanu-PF officials, has spread across regions where opposition support surged in the election.
HRW said it had collected evidence from victims and witnesses of illegal detention centres in Mutoko, Mudzi and Bikita 'to round up and instil fear in suspected political opponents'.
Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: 'Zanu-PF members are setting up torture camps to systematically target, beat and torture people suspected of having voted for the MDC. Several individuals told HRW they had been held in these camps for up to three days and interrogated about MDC leaders, MDC funding, and the location of other MDC supporters.'
In a further sign that support for Mugabe is eroding among regional leaders, Botswana's foreign minister, Phandu Skelemani, took the unusual step of publicly contradicting South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki, who has said there is 'no crisis' in Zimbabwe. Skelemani said Mbeki was alone in that view at a regional summit last weekend.
Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan yesterday urged African leaders to intervene urgently. 'The question that has been posed is where are the Africans? Where are the leaders of the countries in the region, what are they doing, how can they help the situation?' he said in Nairobi. 'It is a serious crisis with impact beyond Zimbabwe.'
There were conflicting reports yesterday as to the destination of a Chinese ship turned away from South Africa after dockers in Durban refused to unload a cargo of weapons destined for Zimbabwe and a legal rights group won a court order blocking the delivery.
The An Yue Jiang was at first reported by a human rights group to be headed for Mozambique but was later said to be heading south, possibly destined for a friendlier port in Namibia or Angola.